November 4, 2019— Here’s an interesting trivia question for you: What do actor Matthew McConaughey, game show host Jeff Probst, and pop singer Jordan Smith have in common? They all share their birthdays with one of the most important parts of the health care safety net in the U.S. – the 340B drug pricing program!
Many more people have heard of this trio of entertainers than have heard of 340B but they may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who has benefited from one of the most successful efforts to rein in drug prices and expand care for those in need.
Since it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, 340B has helped public and not-for-profit hospitals, clinics, and health centers to provide more needed health care to millions of patients living with low incomes and those living in rural parts of the country at no cost to taxpayers. These patients know that their health providers gave them the care and assistance they needed, but many of them don’t realize that it was 340B that made it possible.
So how should we reflect on the success of 340B as it celebrates another year?
For nearly a decade, 340B Health has been talking with patients, pharmacists, doctors, and administrators to ask them how 340B affects their institutions and the patients they serve.
Our Faces of 340B video profiles highlight that patients have been helped by 340B and the providers who connected them with the program. Take for example the story of Kathleen Cavanagh of Caldwell, Idaho. She told us she was on five different prescription assistance programs from different pharmaceutical companies and was paying for half of her medications out of pocket. Then her care team at St. Luke’s Medical Center told her that the 340B program could help her pay for all of her drugs.
“When she told me, I just got goosebumps and started crying. . .It was so overwhelming, it made me feel so good,” Kathleen said.
We have kept in touch with Kathleen and were excited to learn that she has cut the number of drugs she takes in half.
These stories are powerful. They recount the journeys of patients from the fear and despair of not knowing how they will obtain the care they need to the relief of realizing that the path to a healthier life is achievable thanks to the resources that are available to them. We celebrate the success of this program with the patients whom it helps, and we applaud the dedicated caregivers who make it their mission to help them.
Rigorous research also helps demonstrate that 340B is helping improve patient health outcomes, tackle some of the nation’s most significant health challenges, and meet the long-term intent of the program’s founders. The program is a rare example of a bipartisan accomplishment that has increased care access and quality while saving money for both the health system and U.S. taxpayers. That’s how we know that 340B hospitals provide 60 percent of all uncompensated care in the U.S. while representing only 38 percent of acute care hospitals. And that 340B savings help keep the doors of rural hospitals open in a time of record closures.
Champions in Congress
We also hear directly from policymakers that 340B is fulfilling Congress’ intent for the program. At a recent hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) told her colleagues “340B is critically important. It covers entities that use the program savings to provide uncompensated and undercompensated care, free or discounted prescription drugs, and comprehensive wraparound services such as ambulatory care and medication management.”
For these reasons, and more, November 4 is a good time to recommit ourselves to continuing the great work that 340B supports. The program is doing great or, as McConaughey would say, 340B is “alright, alright, alright.” Happy Birthday!